College of Business

Oster’s accounting career built on strong foundation

Jacob Oster works with numbers for a living. On the other hand, he’s glad that he was treated as a person and not a number in college. Looking back on his college decision, Jacob Oster feels he made the right choice when he chose to enroll at Anderson University. Lifelong relationships and valuable training that prepared him to excel as an accountant made Anderson University well worth it. In fact, when taking his Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam, Jacob scored so well that he won the prestigious Elijah Sells Award. Jacob has also given back to his alma mater by teaching accounting classes as an adjunct professor in the College of Business.

How did you discover Anderson University?
I was born and raised in Anderson. I was always aware of the school, coming from Anderson. It was never my plan growing up to attend Anderson. I had the typical college dream of going to a bigger school and leaving my hometown. But when it came time to apply for schools, a high school counselor said just go ahead and apply. So I applied and came on campus for some scholarship interviews and felt an immediate connection with the school when I came for my first visit. Of all the schools I considered, all the schools I toured, Anderson was by far the most welcoming. I never once felt like a number during the admissions process, which was huge for me. After lots of thought, prayer and deliberation, I made the determination that AU is the place for me, even though it was the school that was right down the road from me my entire life. It ended up being the best decision for me for undergrad.

Let’s talk about your college experience.

I was in the Honors Program when I was there. I have a lot of really fond memories of that program. I started with those Alpha groups in the honors program. We had so much fun starting out in school together and working through the honors program curriculum. That was a big part of my first two years before I moved into my core College of Business classes. Most of my fondest memories from school really are the College of Business professors. I was very active within the College of Business and worked a lot with Kristi Harton, with event planning, helping out, you name it.

What was the most fun?

Student activities puts on so many fun events, and a lot of my memories go to those, whether it’s an 80s skate night or Fall Fest—all your friends being together and having some sort of event on campus—those were such a blast. Also, I was very involved with RUF campus ministry, so lots of retreats and group activities with them.

What are some ways your Anderson University education has helped you professionally?

Working in the accounting field like I do now, having a strong base or core understanding of accounting is critical to your job and also obtaining your CPA license. I can’t stress enough how strong a foundation I received from the College of Business professors Terri Taylor and Dr. Chris Neuenschwander—they’re such incredible people and set us all up for success going into grad school. There’s a lot you have to learn on the job of course, but the core understanding of those accounting principles come from those classes I took at Anderson.

After graduation, I went to Wake Forest for my Masters of Accountancy. I felt my accounting foundation from Anderson set me up for success in grad school. I learned a great deal in grad school, but so much of the CPA exam is the core accounting knowledge I was talking about that really gets built in undergrad. Without that strong foundation I don’t think I would have been successful in grad school and definitely not successful on the CPA exam.

When I was in grad school, right before the pandemic hit, I got back my first exam score and I had passed. I’ll never forget how Mrs. Taylor, Dr. Neuenschwander and Dr. Whitehead FaceTimed me to congratulate and encourage me. I’m not sure how word got back to the school, but that’s just a testament to those professors as people and also the culture of Anderson—when you graduate, that’s not the end of your relationship with them.

Do you keep in touch?
I do. They were all invited to my wedding. COVID put a little wrinkle in that one unfortunately.

Did your wife go to Anderson University?

She did. She had the same undergrad degree as me, the same three concentrations. Among my most fun memories of school were going through it with Sara. She went to Wake where she studied Business Analytics. She’s now a business analyst at Global Lending Services. We did meet at Anderson. Talk about the Honors Program—that first week of school—that’s how we met.

At the end of the day, what gives you the greatest sense of accomplishment?

A unique part of Anderson is that you have to work very closely with the people in your class, especially accounting. It’s a pretty set curriculum, not many options in terms of which classes you take. You’re with that same group of 25-30 people and you’re working through these classes over two to three years, and it fosters a real sense of community as a group and also with the professors, where everyone is willing to help each other, willing to help other people learn, helping other people succeed. I think now, the favorite part about my job is the team I work with—probably pretty similar in size, and it’s the same exact thing—we’re all there to help each other learn, help each other grow and do the best job we can for the firm. Without that whole team, we wouldn’t individually be successful. Having a team, having a community in the workplace is what allows me to thrive and succeed.

What career advice would you give to someone interested in entering the financial field?

Get as many internships as you can have. Especially in public accounting, it’s been evolving over the years. The opportunities for internships are starting earlier. For me, I did not intern at an accounting firm, at Elliott Davis, until I graduated from undergrad. That’s all kind of moving up. It’s not uncommon to be able to intern at a large accounting firm after your sophomore or junior year. There is also a lot of benefit to interning at a local firm in town while you’re in school. The more internships you can have, the better. You are interviewing for a full time job at the company, but also you are kind of interviewing them in a way to see if they could be a good fit for you. The more experience you have, the better to find out where you want to be, especially in today’s job market.

jacob oster
Jacob Oster
Graduated from Anderson University: 2019
Degree: BS in Business - concentrations in Accounting, Financial Economics and Supply Chain Management
Title: Audit staff, Elliott Davis Greenville, South Carolina